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Trump Tariffs Cost Pennsylvanians More Than $700 Million in 2019

Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in 2018.

Pennsylvanians paid at least $742 million in additional taxes in 2019 due to Trump administration tariffs, as well as the ongoing trade war with China. That’s up from $430 million in additional tariffs the state paid 2018.

The new data comes from the Trade Partnership, a consulting group that analyzes the impacts of trade policy, and outlines additional costs from January through October of 2019. The group estimates even higher costs during the holidays.


Some of the tariffs (which is just another word for taxes) that Pennsylvanians paid are on products that the U.S. imports from other countries like China. The Trump administration imposed those tariffs to strengthen U.S. companies, but the burden of those tariffs are paid by American consumers and businesses.


For example, a major product imported to Pennsylvania is steel slab, which Pennsylvania-based steel companies like NLMK USA then turn into other finished products. The taxes NLMK has paid number in the hundreds of millions of dollars since President Trump announced them in 2018. 


But it’s taxes on a wide range of other smaller products that consumers may not think about, that really add up, said Trade Partnership vice president Dan Anthony.


“It’s a couple hundred thousand dollars here, a couple hundred thousand dollars there across a huge range of products that people don’t necessarily think about,” Anthony said. “You don’t necessarily think about the battery that goes inside of a device. But if the battery cost goes up, and the screw cost goes up, those things accumulate and that’s how you get such a big number.”


Angela Carr is one small-business owner who has felt the impact of the Trump administration’s tariffs. She’s the co-founder of Turbie Twist, a Butler-based hair towel company. They’ve sold more than 30 million towels since they opened for business in 2006.


“Every once and a while I run into someone who says, ‘What’s a Turbie Twist?’ and I say, ‘What rock have you been living under?’ Usually it’s a bald man,” she said.


Carr’s products are carried at Walmart, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and other major chain stores. Even Ivanka Trump posted a photo of her daughter wearing one last year. Carr’s business imports products from China and costs her more than $500,000 in tariffs a year.


“We were doing really well up until the tariffs,” Carr said. “We worked really hard to be successful and kind of feel like the rug was pulled out from under our feet,” she said. 


“Certainly the intention wasn’t to put small businesses out of business, but we’re being squeezed and it’s not sustainable,” Carr said. “I think that [the tariffs] might have been a little short sighted, and I don’t think the lawmakers really understood the overall effect that it would have on small businesses.”


Carr said she plans to apply for tariff exemptions once the application window opens.